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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The ’dangerousness’ provisions of the criminal justice act 1991: a risk discourse? Robinson, Keith Liam Hamilton


This thesis examines in detail the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 which allow for the incapacitation of the 'dangerous' offender. Incapacitation has been used as an example of a growing trend in criminal justice towards viewing crime in terms of risk. This risk discourse points to the use of actuarial practices and insurance techniques in this field, with a resultant 'abstraction' of the traditional view of crime as a moral wrong. The technologies of risk assessment are central to the very power of the discourse, it has been argued that these techniques further increase the effectiveness of control and that they are a response to a growing preoccupation in society with security. It is argued that risk is, in a sense, pre-political in that as risk takes hold, overtly political responses to crime become more difficult. Given that incapacitation has been used as an example of crime as risk, this thesis takes the form of a micro-study of the above incapacitatory legislation. It assesses the degree to which this legislation can be seen to be a part of the risk discourse. It is argued that on a general level the legislation does fit within the risk model, seeking to incapacitate 'bad risks'. However, it is argued that as the legislation has been conceived, formulated and employed, it does not make use of the actuarial techniques of risk assessment - seen as so central to 'internal dynamic' of the risk discourse - to a significant extent. Rather, it is argued that the legislation embodies a politically motivated appeal to the idea of risk rather than to risk assessment itself. It is concluded that this use of risk - once shed of its attendant technologies - far from making political responses more difficult, sits well with punitive responses demanded by a government of the right.

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